The Yankees are blessed with a team that should be playing in the 2020 World Series. But to get there, who is the one player they can’t afford to lose?
Update: 7/21/20 2:12 PM EST
Egg on my face? Could be. Aaron Judge has three home runs and four RBI in seven plate appearances.
Yankees fans can recall a time not too long ago when Aaron Judge was not only the face of the Yankees but all of baseball as well. Yes, it was true that in 2017 he claimed the distinction of being the tallest player to lead his league in home runs (52).
As the face of baseball, Aaron Judge was on the cover of every baseball-related magazine – from Sports Illustrated to Baseball America, Yankees Magazine, and on to Forbes – he was “It”.
The Yankees couldn’t help themselves from coming up with new ways of spinning his last name. Eventually, though, they installed a special section in Judge’s right field territory known as the “Judges Chambers”.
Yankees fans flocked to have the privilege of claiming those seats – and most were in full attire as a judge.
But it was more than the 114 runs Judge drove home that year, his first full season in the big leagues, the 128 runs he scored, or the walkway Rookie of the Year award he earned.
No, it was more his presence wearing the uniform of the New York Yankees that endeared him to fans, writers, and especially the team’s organization as a whole. He fit – right from the beginning. No one needed to teach him the legacy of the Yankees, or how a big-league ballplayer is expected to carry himself.
Aaron Judge: Bumps In The Road Come Hard And Fast
It is not news to Yankees fans that since that whirlwind tour of stardom in 2017, Aaron Judge has been on a different orbit that is filled with disappointment, frustration, and a host of injuries that plague him to this day.
Over his three full seasons in the big leagues, Judge has missed 50 or more games twice. In contrast, how many times do you think Mike Trout has missed that many during his eight seasons – Never.
The injuries are a fact, but the why part is nebulous. Is Aaron Judge injury prone, and if he is can he and should he be counted on to continue as the face of the team plus, inevitably, the tag as captain of the Yankees.
Moreover, does size matter – and is Aaron Judge more suited to be the tight end of the Giants?
Aaron Boone was remarkably candid as he mulled over that question in a story run by New Jersey.com:
“That’s obviously a go-to if somebody is breaking down,” Boone said. “We’re going to think he’s too small, he’s too big, he’s too explosive. You’re always going to put him into the more speculative “why” you think somebody might be breaking down. So, I don’t think there’s much to it. But the injuries he’s had, and he’s bigger — that’s a talking point.”
It is a talking point, and it’s one that crushes the hopes and dreams of not only the Yankees and their fans, but quite possibly even Aaron Judge himself.
Yankees: Their Most Indispensable Position Player
By now, you’ve probably figured out where I’m going with this, but the question must be considered: How can a player be cast as indispensable when his team has played and won so many games without him?
If a new face of the Yankees needs to be found, where should we look? (For clarification purposes, we’re talking position players only – eliminating Gerrit Cole as the obvious choice)
DJ LeMahieu certainly commands attention, but we’re thinking long term, and at age 32 in the final year of his contract, he needs to be disqualified.
Gary Sanchez was counted on by the Yankees to do far more than he has, but injuries and “head trouble” has set him back. Of the others, Giancarlo Stanton is a natural fit, but he’s an exact copy of Aaron Judge.
So, are you with me on the Yankee who has been named to the All-Star team in both of his first two seasons?
The Yankee who missed only eighteen games all of last year – and the Yankees who slugged 38 home runs in 2019 – 22-year-old Gleyber Torres?
Torres is not yet a complete ballplayer. Defensively, he remains challenged.
The Yankees, however, have done him no favor by forcing him back to shortstop, replacing Didi Gregorius, who was inexplicably not resigned by Brian Cashman.
But Gleyber Torres is too skilled as an athlete to fear he will not reach new heights defensively, especially given his natural aptitude for baseball and his willingness to put in the hard work necessary to get there.
Unlike his teammate Gary Sanchez, who has no interest in learning English as a second language, Torres quietly works and studies on his own to master English. This checks another box in the process to become the new face of the Yankees.
The Yankees In Transition
The Yankees are still transitioning from two decades of Derek Jeter and the spirit with which he played the games. Aaron Judge was thought to be next in line as the player most relied on to be in the lineup every day, contributing to team wins and the go-to guy in the clubhouse.
Judge still has a chance to reconvene court. But it’s a stretch to think his body will miraculously free itself from a propensity to tweak this, pull that, or strain something else.
Both Torres and Judge will have my full attention once the abbreviated Yankees season gets underway this Thursday. The team needs both on the field. We can count on Gleyber Torres to be in there – let’s hope Aaron Judge can stay healthy as well.